Author of the Month: Machado de Assis
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis – normally known just as Machado de Assis – is probably Brazil’s greatest writer, and our Author of the Month for August.
Born in 1839 in Rio de Janeiro, the grandson of freed slaves, he studied at an all-girls school despite having a luxuriant moustache from an early age. After two unpopular volumes of poetry, he turned his hand to fiction; his sixth book, Epitaph of a Small Winner, made his name. Its opening sentence gives a good impression of Machado de Assis’s style and concerns: ‘I am a deceased writer not in the sense of one who has written and is now deceased, but in the sense of one who has died and is now writing’.
Machado de Assis died in 1908; in the course of his career, he was knighted by the Emperor Dom Pedro, founded the Brazilian Academy of Letters, befriended an itinerant baker, and cultivated some of the most marvellous facial hair in Rio. His free time was spent pottering round bookshops. His Collected Stories will be published for the first time in English this month, in a new translation from Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson.